The Francis Preston Blair Family in Politics - Vol. 1

By William Ernest Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
FRANCIS PRESTON BLAIR ENTERS POLITICS

Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law.-- GOLDSMITH.

JAMES BLAIR sent young Francis Preston to Transylvania University at Lexington, Kentucky. There the young man wished to follow in the footsteps of his father by preparing himself to enter the legal profession, but an unfortunate deficiency in his vocal powers caused him to change his purpose. He distinguished himself as a student of rhetoric and as a linguist. Probably his physical deficiency and his talent for writing led him into the field of journalism, where he excelled during the thirties in editorial invectives. Although he studied law and was admitted to the bar, he never practiced.1

Blair graduated with honors at Transylvania in 1811. This little western school came into existence when Kentucky Academy and Transylvania Seminary were merged in 1798. Until eight years after Blair had graduated, it was no more than a grammar school. The course of study was limited; the number of pupils graduated, small; and its renown was limited to Kentucky.2 But this first western university must not be disparaged. The spirit of the teachers and pupils and the thirst for knowledge produced a number of remarkable characters in American history.

Reverend James Blythe acted as president from 1804 to 1817. After 1817 he became professor of chemistry3 and Dr. Holley of Boston became president. The moderately liberal-minded Blythe was a pioneer in the Presbyterian church of Kentucky. The Reverend Robert Bishop, founder of the study of sociology in Amer

____________________
1
Thomas M. Clay, "Two Years With Old Hickory", in Atlantic Monthly, LX ( 1887), 187-99.
2
Charles Caldwell, A Discourse on the Genius and Character of the Rev. Horace Holley, LL.D., Late President of Transylvania University ( Boston, 1828), 151-52, 180, 199-200, 207-11.
3
Robert Peter, Transylvania University, Its Origin, Rise, Decline, and Fall, in the Filson Club Publications, XI, 87-91.

-19-

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